The Growlers – Natural Affair
Dana Point’s merry pranksters release a Furthur bus of Growlers clichés driving on an unpaved road of monotony toward a cliff of career suicide.
“And monotony is a slow killer,” golden-age Brooks Nielsen once wrote. After listening to Natural Affair, I would say monotony is a venomous bitch that kills rapid. This album sounds like they put every Growlers song into a super computer and the rank regurgitation was immediately sent out to the 15-year-old girls that pollute the front of their shows for collaboration. There is almost nothing new here. What does breathe fresh air never catches, and before you know it you’re back into a pocket of mind-numbing Muzak. It’s almost crafty how quickly something promising habitually turns sour here.
I’m not sure where they went wrong. In 2016 they made an album, City Club, that completely defied everything we knew about The Growlers and propelled them into the mainstream. They sat real nice for a while. Then they made another album in 2018, Casual Acquaintances: more of the same, but still catchy and good. Plus it was considered a B-sides compilation, so its similarity to City Club was completely acceptable. While everything had been good, even great up to this point, they were damned due a sonic reshuffle, which is a necessity when you’re a band with one singer. I was expecting something entirely new, a redefining act that would take us into the next groovy chapter of this cult saga. What I got was brittle horseshit. Which really stings if you’re a long-time Growlers fan such as myself. I can go wherever The Growlers take me, that was part of the fun with them. It was always good even if the genre wasn’t to everyone’s liking, because Brooks Nielsen and Matt Taylor were good writers who could jump those lengths. Something along the way must’ve happened that drained their creativity. It could be the extensive touring, or that they’re getting old and have families now (as showcased on the album cover). I’m guessing it’s a little of both. What I know for sure is The Growlers need to make some big decisions.
This album has carved a deep fork in the road. They have three options as far as I’m concerned. They can close their tab and call it quits, living out the rest of their days on the spoils earned from City Club. They can take a long break, focus on their writings and enjoy the careless comfort of family and friends. Or they can quit releasing music and just tour the songs they have, because even though the music has deteriorated, the live show has only gotten better. What they can’t do is keep going on like this. This album is a shockingly boring crop of shoddy material, melted and re-solidified into a gelatinous mess. Everything before that was everything but. I know The Growlers can make good music, it just seems they’ve gotten a little too comfortable in a business that will cut your fucking neck off and watch you flail into bloody exhaustion. If they can tune out the yes men and reconstruct themselves like I know they’re capable of doing, then Natural Affair will just be a nasty one-night stand, which we’re all guilty of. But if they keep tugging along at this broken chord, a once prolific act is going to see a rough ending. Get your shit together.